This banana bread is easily the most requested recipe in my house, and it never lasts a full day! It’s so fluffy, moist, and has the perfect amount of sweetness—no one will guess that it’s made with whole wheat flour and has almost no added sugar (and the health benefits don’t end there)! By far the best banana bread I have ever tasted, healthy or not.
I have SO MANY favorite recipes on this blog, but this banana bread is probably the recipe I make the most often--it's easily the most requested dessert in my house! I don't think it has ever lasted longer than a day, and we're always arguing over who gets the last piece.
It's so fluffy and light, but also super moist. Within the incredibly soft texture are crunchy pieces of walnuts, which pair perfectly with the banana flavor. I could rant about the texture all day, but the flavor definitely needs to be talked about too.
It's got all the sweet banana flavor, but it's not so sweet that it's overpowering. The bananas, plus dates, ensure that very little added sugar is needed--just a mere 3 tablespoons of maple syrup!
I originally posted this banana bread recipe a long while back, but decided it deserved better--new pictures and a more detailed blog post were long overdue!
I'll be explaining in greater detail than before, the ingredients and process that make this bread so special. But I'll try not to keep you here too long, so you can get to making it as soon as possible!😝
Ingredients in Healthy Banana Walnut Bread
There is a specific reason for each ingredient, to make this banana bread both healthy and delicious. But that doesn't mean it isn't versatile! I'll try to include every possible substitution you might need, but if you still have questions, feel free to leave a comment below 🙂
What Keeps the Banana Bread Sweet?
As I mentioned before, bananas, dates, and maple syrup keep this bread naturally sweet, with no refined sugar and very little added sugar! They all have very important roles.
The banana is obvious. It's a very common natural sweetener, but it also has a distinct taste (which is why it's called banana bread😛). This allows for much less sugar than other baked goods, but with the same amount of sweetness. However, banana alone is not enough to keep this sweet...
Medjool dates are by far my favorite healthy sweetener. Like bananas, they are whole fruits and are not considered added sugars by the FDA...but they work just as well! In addition to the sweet, caramel-like flavor (it's called nature's candy for a reason!), dates provide many health benefits, including fiber, vitamins and minerals!
We could use medjool dates and bananas to sweeten the bread completely, but this wouldn't exactly work texture-wise (I'll explain this in greater detail shortly😉). Dates are more dense than most sweeteners, so we need to get just a touch more sweetness from something lighter...like maple syrup!
Maple syrup is also a natural, unrefined sweetener with some health benefits like antioxidants. Unlike bananas and dates, it is considered added sugar, but we only need 3 tablespoons to finish the job. Not too much, right?
Don't have maple syrup? Honey works perfectly in its place, and it also has similar health benefits! Honey is the only substitute I've tried, but you should get along fine using a granulated sweetener like coconut, cane, or brown (but I can't guarantee it).
How to Make Healthy Banana Bread Moist
Nobody wants a dry banana bread (or any dessert for that matter)! Bananas, as well as a few other ingredients, help keep this banana bread moist, but also healthy.
Yes, bananas are here to save the day again! Not only are they great for sweetness, they also add lots of moisture without the added fat. However, like with sweetness, they don't work alone.
This recipe uses yogurt as another source of moisture! Plain, nonfat Greek yogurt to be exact. Plain because we don't want to mess up the flavors, and most flavored varieties have lots of sugar, which we don't want. And nonfat because I don't like my banana bread super heavy. I also love how much protein it has!
But don't worry, we are NOT avoiding fat! I've learned from years of experience that you CANNOT expect the same results without using fat. It just won't work. (and sorry for the "shouting," I just wanted to make a point🙈)
The most effective ingredient at adding moisture is oil, not butter! This is good news, since oil is much better for you. But not oils are created equal! This recipe uses avocado oil because it's made of healthy unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, and it's NOT chemically processed like vegetable and canola oils! It also has a neutral taste so you won't even notice it 🙂
Don't have avocado oil? Light-tasting olive oil is a great substitute! It has an almost identical health profile, and it works just the same. Just make sure to use a light-tasting one, because most olive oils have a very strong taste. And if you must, vegetable or canola oil will work--after all, there's no harm as long as it's consumed in moderation!
Keeping it Soft and Fluffy
Just because we use whole wheat flour doesn't mean that it can't be soft and fluffy! The perfect texture can be achieved using some simple swaps and tricks.😉
Swap #1? Using white whole wheat flour instead of red or regular whole wheat. Although the word "white" is usually associated with refined carbs, this is not the case here. White whole wheat flour is simply a different variety, with a lighter taste and texture. But don't worry, it still has the same nutritional benefits as regular whole wheat!
Don't have white whole wheat flour? In this case you have a few options. If you want to keep the nutritional benefits, you can use regular whole wheat flour. It won't have as good of a texture, but it'll still taste great! Your other option if you want to keep the texture the same is to use a combination of whole wheat and all purpose flour--again, a little bit of refined carbs won't kill you!
The second key ingredient is the most important: eggs! There really is no substitute, especially using dates as a sweetener. We're whipping the eggs, a step not in most banana bread recipes, but it won't work otherwise (for a few reasons--I'll explain this in a bit!)
But not only do eggs provide structure and air bubbles, they're also high in protein and nutrients! I just love win-wins like that 🙂
And finally, the two ingredients that are easy to forget but SO important: baking powder and baking soda! They are very similar, but it's important to note the difference between the two--they are NOT interchangeable!
Baking powder is actually a combination of baking soda and cream of tartar--the baking soda being a base, and the cream of tartar an acid. They react in a certain way when baked so that it creates smaller, more structured air pockets than just baking soda alone, which makes bigger air pockets that deflate if you put too much.
You need a combination of both baking powder and baking soda for the best soft and fluffy banana bread--and I've come up with the perfect ratio after a few trials!
Don't have baking powder? This recipe uses 1 ½ teaspoons, so you can make your own using 1 teaspoon cream of tartar and ½ teaspoon baking soda (in addition to the original baking soda amount). I haven't tried this, but it should work in a pinch!
These are some of the most important ingredients--small amounts, but a little goes a long way!
Salt and vanilla extract are the two ingredients I add to almost every single dessert I make. It won't taste salty or vanilla-y, but they will help to bring out the rest of the flavors.
Walnuts aren't flavor enhancers, but I wanted to include them in this section because they do add a lot of flavor and texture. It is called banana walnut bread after all! 😝
How to Make Healthy Banana Walnut Bread
The process for this banana bread is not exactly what you'd see in a traditional recipe. It is a little more time consuming, but SO worth the effort.
As I mentioned before, the dates are great for natural sweetness, but they are a lot denser than most sweeteners. This means we have to whip the eggs, because otherwise our banana bread will be dense and not fluffy at all.
But first, we have to blend the dates! They're whole fruits and must be blended for their flavor to be fully incorporated. Combine the dates with Greek yogurt in a food processor and (Greek yogurt helps it become smooth!) and blend until very smooth.
Now back to the eggs. You'll need to separate the yolks from the whites, because egg whites do not whip well with yolks in them. Using an electric mixer is essential, unless you have too much time on your hands and need an arm workout🤣
Lightly whip the egg yolks in a large bowl, then add the dates and beat further. Then mix in 1 ½ cup of mashed banana. Yes, it's important to measure!
If I just wrote "3 large bananas," there's a LOT that can vary. Everyone's "large" is different! Measuring ensures that you have the right amount that will lead to the right texture. So what do you do if it's not the right amount?
If you have extra banana, just subtract that amount from the oil or Greek yogurt to keep the same level of moisture. And if you don't have enough, just add extra oil or yogurt, and maybe a little extra maple syrup.
In a separate bowl, whip up the egg whites with a bit of maple syrup so that it forms stiff peaks. This is key to make fluffy bread!
After that, it's as simple as mixing together the rest of the ingredients and baking!
I had a bit of extra batter (and you may too) so I made them into mini muffins! There's directions on how to bake them in the recipe 🙂
I really hope you like this recipe! If you decide to make it, be sure to post a picture/story (or dm me!) and tag me @nutritiousdelights on Instagram--I'd love to see it!💗
More recipes you might love:
Healthy Banana Walnut Bread
- 3 large bananas mashed (about 1 ½ cups)
- 1 cup medjool dates packed
- ½ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- ⅓ cup avocado oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 eggs separated
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½-1 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 ¼ cups white whole wheat flour
- 1 cup chopped walnuts roast for more flavor
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a loaf pan and line with parchment paper.
- Soak the dates in boiling water for 5-10 minutes to soften. In the meantime, separate your yolks and whites. Put the yolks in a large bowl and the whites in a medium bowl. Beat the egg yolks with an electric mixer (I use handheld) until they become lighter and airier. Then beat the whites with a teaspoon of the maple syrup, until it forms stiff peaks. Set aside.
- In a food processor, process the dates and Greek yogurt until smooth. Beat this mixture into the egg yolks until fully combined. Then beat in the mashed bananas, oil, vanilla, and remaining maple syrup.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. Coat the walnuts in this flour mixture. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet, then switch to a spatula and fold when it gets too hard to whisk. Fold in the egg whites.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and fill until it is ¾ full. If you still have batter left, pour the rest into a mini or regular size muffin tin. Bake the bread for 40-50 minutes, covering for the last 20. Bake mini muffins for about 10 minutes or regular size for 15-20 minutes.
- Let the bread cool slightly before serving, about 15-30 minutes.